Review: Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PS4/PSVR)

Review: Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PS4/PSVR)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PC
  • Oculus Rift
  • HTC Vive
  • Windows Mixed Reality

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Optional
  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move Optional (2)
  • PS VR Aim Controller None
Title: Downward Spiral: Horus Station
Format: PSN (3.7 GB)
Release Date: September 11, 2018
Publisher: 3rd Eye Studios Oy Ltd
Developer: 3rd Eye Studios Oy Ltd
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), €14.99 (EU), £11.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Most games use countless cutscenes and NPC interactions to tell a long-winded story. They then elaborate on it with dozens of audio logs and letters scattered throughout.

Downward Spiral: Horus Station does none of these things. It lets the player tell the story based on the things they discover along the way.

Some might say this is an excuse to save some time and money while others may say it gives people the freedom for their own interpretation. I think I may be in the former category.

Gameplay:
Downward Spiral: Horus Station can be played as a standard PS4 game or in a PlayStation VR mode which is accessible from the main menu. It can also be played in a passive mode that removes the enemies.

Movement is slow and needs more thought than just pushing a direction on the analog stick. At first, all you can do is push off from surfaces, propelling yourself forward with a small amount of momentum.

Review: Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PS4/PSVR) Review: Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PS4/PSVR)

It isn’t long before you’ll find a very useful winch gun to pull your character toward things with more speed and accuracy than before. Inertia carries your unseen body quite a distance so you’ll often need to adjust your trajectory mid-flight.

Now, when I say unseen I should mention your arms and hands are visible and you can interact with most things floating in the eerie station. Knobs, buttons, and switches can be turned, pressed, and flicked, often with no consequence.

There are obviously certain things you need to do, such as puzzles to solve, but with a bare minimum of information, you have to figure everything out on your own. A few cleverly placed flashing screens to inform you that power needs to be restored is as about as much as you’ll get from this game.

Thankfully, the levels are generally configured in such a way that you’re almost ushered through a fairly linear path. Most doors are sealed shut with a red glow and no handle, meaning you cannot pass through so you can avoid those dead ends.

There have just been two occasions where I needed to check online for help to proceed. Both resulted in embarrassment as the solutions were quite obvious had I only closely examined some workstations, instead of a cursory glance from across the room.

Review: Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PS4/PSVR) Review: Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PS4/PSVR)

You can play the game with or without enemies, should you wish to concentrate on just the story. This does make it feel more lonely as even a malfunctioning repair bot is nice to have around in this eerie place, at least until it tries to kill me.

I found it odd that pausing the game doesn’t really suspend the action, it just brings up the menu. Your character still continues on until an immovable object halts their inertia. I only encountered one bug, which might have been the PS4 itself as the sound disappeared from the game and even the PS4 menu music was almost nonexistent. Restarting the game solved the problem.

Playing in VR works very well and pausing in this mode actually works. Aiming and movement with two Move controllers is excellent and much better than the regular controller. It feels much quicker and easier to navigate the derelict station in this mode and I highly recommend it.

The pause menu and torch buttons are on your sleeve and so you have to move your arm into view and press the required button in a natural way. It works really well and I almost wish the push to talk command and a few other things were there too. It really adds to the immersion.

I wish I hadn’t bothered playing the game in the standard mode first, I might have enjoyed myself more and not noticed how the distinct lack of a narrative and a farrago of set pieces made me focus on the repetition and linear path through the game.

Visuals:
Downward Spiral: Horus Station has a distinct visual style. It looks deliberately dated, almost like an old 70’s movie, complete with panels of randomly flashing lights without any descriptors. Those buttons, dials, and switches that don’t seem to do anything, at least not that I could tell.

Review: Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PS4/PSVR) Review: Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PS4/PSVR)

There are no reel to reel spindles or anything that bad. I didn’t see the old Lost in Space robot or anything cheesy like that. There are plenty of miscellaneous objects floating through the rooms and corridors, all or which can be grabbed for a closer look. Some collectibles are also floating throughout the station.

The graphics are great in VR and in some ways, even better than the boring old regular TV mode. Lighting and smoke effects work well to add some atmosphere to the sometimes generic corridors.

Audio:
Ville Valo, the lead vocalist of the gothic rock band HIM, created an electronic soundtrack that is both ominous and pronounced. It strikes at key points in the usually silent game, with quick stabs of chilling sounds.

There are some sound effects, usually from the weaponized tools or the quick clunks as an object bounces off the cold interior of the space station. There’s no speech whatsoever, which means there is no soft and soothing computerized voice to guide you through this lonely empty warren.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is can be played in co-op and even features puzzles geared towards two players. I sadly couldn’t find anyone in my awkward schedule to try this out, but I’ve heard that it works well.

There are two Multiplayer modes, Deathmatch and Horde. However, there is no lobby. Each time I’ve played it I am left floating in the chosen room without any opponents to fight. If you have yet to complete the game, be careful what location you select – I stumbled across one significant area that I hadn’t seen before.

Review: Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PS4/PSVR) Review: Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PS4/PSVR)

Conclusion:
I like that Downward Spiral: Horus Station has the option to play in a passive mode so players can relax and enjoy the story, or lack thereof. Yes, it degrades into a tedious slog in the passive mode and the tense music just becomes a reminder that you’re missing out on some action.

So I would suggest playing this with enemies, as you can still choose how aggressive they are, and in VR with some Move controllers. Using Move is much better than the often clumsy standard controls.

What disappointed me the most was the lack of a proper story and the glaring truth that a few conceptual ideas were barely tied together and pushed out to the public. It’s almost like the developers at 3rd Eye Studios couldn’t be bothered to elaborate and want the player to do it instead.

Was I entertained throughout my journey? Not really. It sadly became quite repetitive and lonely. Had I been able to find someone to play co-op with me it could have propelled the fun factor much higher. If you can’t get enough of the PlayStation VR then this is worth checking out for the gameplay mechanics alone, especially if you can get a friend to join in.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

PS4 Screens

PS VR Screens

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

If you send a friend request please add ‘PS Nation’ in the subject area.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook